Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Videos of Yellowstone

Some videos that facebook won't let me upload of the Scouts trip to Yellowstone and beyond.  Old Faithful is longest at 90 seconds I think:

the first is sunlight reflecting off of bacteria water produced by the geyesers

This one is the mud bubbling up from the heat and gasses below.  Kind of looked like a boiling pot of cream of mushroom soup.

This one looked like the Sarlac pit.  I kept waiting for a giant tongue to come out and grab someones ankle.

The imfamous Old Faithful!

On our second to last night, we stopped to reflect on our trip and to pay tribute to the passing of the Great Grandmother of one of the scouts.  As she was being honoured, a chorus of cicadas (or June bugs?) chimed in, and got louder...and louder...and louder, until we could hardly hear each other.  I like to think of it as the sign that G.G. was listening and sending us all message.

Our last stop was crazy fireflies...

Thursday, 18 July 2013

It started with a bang...

and ended with a bang.

It's my fault.  Just as I had hit the send button on the text to my wife that we would be home in 10 minutes, the weld holding the trailer hitch on the back of the bus decided to give way.  Like every other incident on this trip, it was nothing more than an annoying inconvenience...I feel like if it didn't happen, something would have felt off about the end of our trip.

I'm thankful that it didn't happen in so many other, terrible places it could have.

We got the kids home safely, and that's the most important thing.  I've got terrible bus-lag today, and I have trouble walking on land after being on a big bouncing tube for the last 18 days (21 if you count the nights where I couldn't sleep as 'bonus days').

Now I must go through all the photos I've taken and relive the whole thing.  I promise I will provide a more detailed account of everything that happened as well once my brain feels less like mush.

Thank you all for your patience, and thank you all for not yelling at me for making you pick up your child at 4am....hahaha...

Scouter Keith

Monday, 15 July 2013

Into the US!


An arduous, yet uneventful departure from CJ on Saturday.  Our bus was parked approximately 2km from our camp site and between Friday and Saturday it took us about half a dozen trips to get everything hiked back up the hill and on the bus.  We ended up leaving slightly later than anticipated, but with mixed emotions we left Sylvan Lake.  (Not before a much needed Timmy’s stop in Red Deer).

We dropped Scouter Julio, Ben and Connor at the airport and said our farewells, before heading South to Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump.  It was the last opportunity for wifi before most of us had to turn roaming off on our phones.  (we’re currently at a campsite with free wifi).  HSIBJ was beautiful, I’m sure our pictures just couldn’t do it justice.

We are still in Montana now…a huge state, but absolutely beautiful.  I’ve never travelled to this part of the US before and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to come back.

We made a stop at the Lewis And Clark Caves, the hike up was beautiful (and very hot!) but the caves were cool and refreshing and AMAZING!  Not for the clausterphobic though….  I took as many pics as I can, but with low light some may be a little blurry.  From what I’ve seen, most of them look like we were touring the Mines Of Moria (NERD ALERT!).

We continue to be blessed with beautiful weather.

This morning we are heading to Yellowstone and Old Faithful and hopefully Mount Rushmore.  Someone told me that if we don’t want to look like tourists we should refer to it as the ‘faces’.  Obviously they hadn’t seen our giant Scouter bus.

Two more sleeps until home!

>Scouter Keith

Friday, 12 July 2013

Grab a cup of coffee, this one's a bit long...

Day 7.  Some kids slept on the bus, some kids slept outside.  I awoke extra early, and there was a bite in the air.  The sun was just coming up so I was able to catch some really beautiful pics with both my phone and camera.  If you’ve never seen a sunrise in the mountains it is truly something to behold.  The way it catches the tops of the mountains before all else, the way the light picks and chooses which mountain it wants to illuminate.  The mist rising up from the trees up past the peaks of the mountains to join into the clouds in the sky is why I love the Rockies so very much.  I wanted to capture the looks on the kids faces as their eyes fell upon the mountains for the first time, but since most of them were on the bus it was impossible.

We enjoyed a lovely breakfast and jumped on the bus with  Banff on our minds.  The kids actually put down their ipods for a few moments to take in the views.  Mostly beautiful, the Bow River remained swollen and murky and signs of the damage it caused were everywhere.  The mountains, which I remember as being teeming with wildlife seemed a bit empty as the animals had clearly all gone to higher ground, but we did still manage to see a few caribou and a couple bears swimming in the water.

We got into Banff and booked our horseback ride, then continued on to scenic Lake Louise.  I love Lake Louise.  The lake is all glacier run off and has this beautiful azure colour to it.  A quick peek inside Chateau Lake Louise then back on the bus to get back for our ride!

We returned to Banff and were all assigned to our horses.  I tried to get as many pictures of the kids on their horses but it was a small pen and getting very crowded very quickly, so I’m sorry if I missed anyone.  I didn’t want to get stepped on our kicked.  Most kids took the challenge head on, others seemed a little more uncertain.  The horses were excellent though and needed very little persuading.  Trinity’s horse wasn’t very fond of being followed too closely and kept turning on Will’s, and Kiana’s horse kept stopping to eat everything it could.  The kids took much merriment every time they needed to stop and shout out ‘PEE BREAK’ whenever the horse in front of them decided it needed to relieve itself.  The views were incredible, we travelled along the Bow River, through marshes and had some amazing views of the mountains.  It turns out it’s very hard to take a good photo while on the back of a horse, especially when you’re having to keep one hand on the reigns.  I was going on the theory that if you take enough photos…some will be bound work out.  About half way through our 2 hour trip, and halfway up a large rocky hill, Scouter Tammy took a tumble from her horse.  Nothing serious, some bruising and a few scrapes, but we were forced to turn around and take another route while paramedics were called to the location.  Ron, one of our guides was a chief scout and stayed with Tammy, and Dave the paramedic was also a scout from Dundas.  The rest of our ride went without incident and we were all walking a bit funny/shakey by the time we got off our horses.  My muscles still hurt.

While Scouter Tammy was being treated, we took the kids to The Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner.  After a long ride, a good meal was much appreciated.  We then broke the kids up into troupes and let them do a bit of shopping with one of the adults present at all time.

We returned to our campsite, and no Mom’s groups had usurped our site so we set up more tents and had a nice dinner.  We scrubbed our site extra good so as to avoid any unwanted attention from the local wildlife and went to sleep.

We broke camp around noon on Day 8 and headed into Calgary for the Stampede.  The kids were again broken up into patrols and allowed to explore on their own.  So much to see.  Amazing how they had managed to clean it up considering what it looked like a little over a week ago.  We did a full tour of the grounds, took in the Superdogs show and came out to a raging thunderstorm.  It would be nice if it was one of those warm summer rains, but no.  This rain came heavy and it was cold.  We huddled under the bridge leading to the Saddledome and munched on some lunch.  After that we ran a quick trip back to the bus to grab blankets, coats and tickets to the opening show.  We watched the chuck wagon races, all 9 heats which took a little longer than usual because they had to keep cleaning the track after each race.  It was a massive puddle, as the ground could not take any more of the rain that was falling.  Most of the kids had fallen asleep by the end of the races and we were debating whether or not to just leave as they set up the stage for the show…but I’m glad we stayed.  The show was fantastic!  I wish my phone had not died right at the beginning as there was some really cool wire work and performances.  I will have to get Scouter Rachel and Scouter Richards shots of that one for later.  Finally we piled into the bus, very late yet very entertained and headed back to our camp for the night…which they closed the gate and locked us out by the time we got there.  The scouts were able to get in and wander until we found our campground (which Scouter Andy had set up while we were enjoying our show) and we crashed.

Day 9, we woke up to free coffee and hot chocolate (woohoo), packed up our equipment and headed to Drumheller.  Spirits were high as this was the day we were finally going to get to CJ!  Along the way we stopped at the Tyrell Dinosaur Museum.  Drumheller and the Alberta badlands has the highest concentration of dinosaur fossils in North America.  The museum is amazing and the kids loved it…they loved it so much we got on the bus a little late and arrived at CJ having just missed the opening ceremonies.  L.  We returned to our bus and began to unload everything we were going to need for the next week.  It’s a good thing we brought a cart, because our bus is honestly about 2 KM from our camp site.  Even with the cart it took us 3 trips back and forth.  By the time we were ready to set up, it was getting dark and to be honest the sites were less than favorable.  We had to clear a lot of large sticks and stumps in the dark in search of enough places to place all our tents.  And and I went to get the food, and judging by the messages I received you all know how that turned out.  We were less than enthused, but they did manage to scramble up some more food for us…and by the time we got back to camp most of the kids were asleep anyway.  Since then the food has been a bit hit and miss.  I understand that a camp this size would be a logistical nightmare, but I’m not sure where they were thinking we were going to keep the copious amounts of milk etc. they keep giving us.  Our coolers only hold so much.  The recipes they have provided were pretty abstract and complicated given the limited instruction they gave us, plus left room for things going horribly wrong.  How many scouts know how to properly boil milk without ruining a pot?  Most of the time we end up improvising using the ingredients we’re given and supplementing with cereal.

The events on the first day were chaotic.  Signage has been limited, and groups seem to be tripping each over each other.  Our list of daily activities seems to be leaning heavily towards the water, and we didn’t get any of the hiking expeditions.  I suppose that’s a bit to be expected considering how late we signed up to come.  As the week goes on we hear from other camps and I think it’s not all that bad.  Apparantly a group from Edmonton got to go to the West Edmonton Mall!  We did too, and it was a blast.  The kids got to see civilization again for a while, and enjoyed a few hours in the Water Park.  The kids also really enjoyed the zip-lining, and I got some great pics of the kids who braved the heights.  Canoeing was very basic and the kids were a little disappointed as they knew it all anyway…but the pickle boats and water-gun fight that followed lifted their spirits.  I went in with Dilan, but as soon as a leader’s in the water it’s fair game.  It allowed me to soak some of my frustrations away too though ;).  Between that and the half hour I spent holding boats in the water yesterday while the storm blew in…I’m done with lakes for a while.

The CJ has been fun, but I’m glad it’s only a small part of this adventure.  I think it may have been disappointing if had just flown out.  We have begun the process of packing up.  Tonight is the closing ceremonies, and tomorrow we head out.  We will drop off a few scouts who can’t travel into the US at the airport then it’s on to the home leg of our cross country tour.  Having driven across Canada several times as a kid, I’m excited to come back through the States and see things that A: I haven’t seen before, and B: I would choose to visit on my own.

When I began this trip, I thought I would have much more down time.  I honestly thought I would have more opportunity to sit and blog…but the pace we’ve set and the agenda we’ve had have kept me away from my blogging responsibilities.  I’m sorry.  I’ve tried to keep up with my instagram pics, but my phone keeps running out of juice and the chargers are at a premium.  I’ve taken a lot of photos with my camera which I will share on my return…but even then I left my camera at camp whenever we had a water event.

Going into the US means that we will have even less internet access lest we incur ridiculous roaming charges so I will update if and when I can.

Thanks again for your patience,

>Scouter Keith

Friday, 5 July 2013


Who would have thought that cramming 25 kids into a bus and roaring across the country, camping under the stars every night would keep you so busy?  Clearly, I over-estimated the amount of time I was going to have to keep up with this blog.  Our daily hiccups haven’t helped add to the time constraints either…HOWEVER, I digress.  I also apologize for not keeping everyone in the loop as well as I should have.

Day 5.  To date, our most trouble free day.  We continued our voyage across Saskatchewan and our first stop was to Roleau, AKA Dog River to those who are fans of the show Corner Gas.  The people who now run the gift shop were extremely friendly and outgoing.  They hooked us up with a lunch of hot dogs and a pop.  Saskatchewan, we are told has had their tourism funding cut and as such they have informed us that they may have to remove the set…unless they can get a bit more popular.  Please take a moment to ‘Like’ the Corner Gas Souvenir Shop on facebook to help promote what they’re doing and if you’re a fan of the show…it seems that a movie may be in the works as well.  They took our picture, posted it on their page and tweeted it and even forwarded it to Brent  Butt himself!  We all got a glass decal for the road.  Such lovely people.

Our next stop was Moose Jaw and the Museum of Western Development where they’ve moved the Snowbird exhibit.  They easily could have changed the name of the museum to ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’.  Some fascinating pieces though, from the very early days of transportation to current day.  The woman was very concerned we were going to be crawling all everything…but we were good little boys and girls.  I tried to get as many kids as I could in instagram pictures, but it was a big place so I’m sorry if I missed your son/daughter.  Some of the are quite good at evading the camera while others seek me out.

We had hoped to make it all the way through Saskatchewan that day, but a longer then planned stop at Wal-Mart (ravaged by long weekend revellers) means we had to bunker down at Saskatchewan Landing, Lake Diefenbaker (may want to check the spelling on that).  This has been my favorite campground so far, narrowly beating out the Rockies.  Lake Diefenbaker inset into the prairies if that makes sense, and is surrounded by hills and lots of deer.  Low trees, bean bushes and even little cactai to add to the desert feel.  Nobody stepped on one thank goodness!  What was odd about this place though was that as the sun went down, the wind came up.  This is a naturally occurring phenomenon with places such as this we were told, but the wind was strong, and constant.  It was like being in a little tiny hurricane without the rain.  I personally found the sound quite soothing and slept quite well.  I was sad when we had to leave the next day.

Day 6:  Another bus repair requirement meant we made a bee-line for Calgary.  The city looks good considering the terrible events that had happened in the last week or so.  We picked up a fan for the engine that had malfunctioned, had some pizza for dinner and while the bus was to be in the shop we all decided to go for a swim.  While we were swimming, Patrol Leader Jacob was demonstrating his Olympic form on the diving board when he caught a rogue wave from the north and belly flopped (well, side flopped really) heavily.  While he seemed fine at the time (maybe slightly embarrassed), it prompted an asthma attack and muscle spasms.  The paramedics were called and Jacob was taken to the local Children’s hospital for tests and observation.  All results have since come back negative, although they have told us it seemed to prompt a bout of pneumonia, so he’s been admitted and been under observation since.  Scouter Colin stayed with him for the night, before rejoining us in the Rockies the next day.  Latest reports have him returning to us on Sunday at the latest where he will be able to join us at the Jamboree.  The kids all pitched in and got him a card and a t-shirt while in Banff to help with the healing process.  MEANWHILE, in a different part of town the mechanic who was supposed to fix our bus backed out, so Andy returned to the parts dealer to beg and plead our case.  A mechanic used his dinner break to replace the part and when Andy asked what we owe him, it turns out that Mike was a Chief Scout in Leemington, and as such we owed nothing for the work done.  AMAZING!  I must admit that one thing this trip has done is renew a lot of my faith in mankind.  Scouts are Scouts for life.  Next we picked up Scouter Julio and continued on to our chosen campsite at Bow Valley just outside Canmore.  We pulled in and after a few wrong turns in the park parked at what we what we thought was our booked site.  I want to make sure I express this right because I still cannot believe what happened next.  It was about midnight (so 2am at home).  The site was a huge open field and our intentions were to just drop our tents right next to the bus and get to sleep…however, the mom’s group already there had other ideas.  They made their way from across the field and informed us that there were tents all around the field (approx. the size of a football field) and when we explained our case, that we were from 4 provinces away, had 30 kids and would just drop here and be gone first thing to find a new site they said they had to ‘talk about it’.    After a brief pow-wow…they decided that this was unacceptable.  They paid a lot of money for this site and that they didn’t want us interfering with their ‘morning field time’.  I’m not kidding, they TURNED US AWAY despite the copius amount of space that was there.  I think we were all in too much of state of shock to argue, so we repacked our gear and went off in search of a new site…making as much noise as we could on our way out.  In hindsight, we should have just stayed but we drove off and actually found  a spot right close to the bathrooms and showers which turned out much better for us all.  It was truly and honestly unbelievable.  By the time we settled in, half the kids slept outside, while the rest stayed on the bus.

We are now about to pull into the stampede, so I will continue this story when we get back on the bus.  Again, I’m sorry for the infrequency but as you can see our days have been jam packed full of excitement and adventure.  The kids are all doing very well, still smiling.  Once we are at CJ and we have a more fixed location I promise we’ll be better suited to post regularly.

Thanks again,

Scouter Keith

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Sorry if I repeat anything...

I was very sleepy when I wrote this post :)

Day 3 Continued, and a little Day 4 for good measure…

So after visiting the giant goose in Wawa, we carried on up and down hills as we made our way around Lake Superior.  If you’ve never done it, the views are spectacular.  Panoramic shots from every elevation imaginable.  We even managed to see a couple moose grazing by the side of the road along our way.

Our trip was broken up by a couple quick stops, one to the beautiful town of Terrace Bay, where we gobbled down a quick bite and took the time to customize our trailer with our names, destination and a growing list of towns we’ve passed through.  I spoke with a man who had been biking from St. Johns Newfoundland since April 21st!  We had trouble keeping our speed on some of those hills in the bus, I can only imagine what it must have been like on a bike!

We then moved on to the Terry Fox Monument in Thunder Bay.  On one of my many trips out west as a kid, I had the luxury of seeing Terry running at the side of the road as we passed, not once but twice.  (On the way out and on the way back).  I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to explain to any of the scouts who Terry Fox was.

From the Terry Fox monument you can also see ‘The Sleeping Giant’, which is a large rock formation that resembles a giant laying in the water.  It was a bit hazy, but Scouter Rachel managed to get a few shots.

We made another very minor fix to the trailer with the help from Scouter Wally and filled our bellies with spaghetti before we were on our way again.  This time our goal was Dryden for the night…by the time we got there it was dark and most of the kids were sleeping on the bus so we made the decision to try and make up for lost time by driving through the night.

Unfortunately it meant we had to forgo one of our itinerary items, but I didn’t think the folks at Ornge would have appreciated us trying to get them to give us a tour at 3am. 

Sunrise found us in Winnipeg safe and sound, albeit very early.  We stopped by the Royal Canadian Mint to see if they would be open that day, and luck would have it that they were…but in about 2 hours.  Perfect, just enough time to get some breakfast into us.  Breakfast was served at the local Perkins, and then we returned to the Mint to enjoy a quick tour and stroll through the gift shop.  The gift shop even has a real gold brick worth approximately $500,000 that you can pick up to feel the weight.  Sadly there was a chain and armed guard that went along with it, so I’m still not rich.

As we continued through Manitoba we stopped at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum in Austin.  We began to look around, and when we inquired if there was a cafeteria where we could invest in some eats…which they didn’t have.  We were a little disheartened after several failed attempts to locate an open store on the holiday Monday, but the lovely folks made us some hot dogs from their own personal stash, which we graciously accepted.  The woman who ran the museum got along famously with Scouter Tammy!

After jumping back into the bus we managed to get to, and squeak in a tour of the RCA Museum.  The kids were enraptured by the number of large artillery and other war machines they had on display.

We’ve now entered Saskatchewan and are staying at Moose Mountain Provincial Park for the night, where we all get some time at the beach, a shower and a good nights rest.

All is well, everyone is still smiling and happy.

Talk again soon,

Scouter Keith

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Sorry for the Delay...

Did you miss us?  I knew you did J

I apologize for not blogging earlier, we are now in Northern Ontario and I am having some difficulty with internet access…this includes instagram.  There will be a fresh load of pics once I my phone gets an internet signal.  Clearly I’ve chosen a poor provider for cross country treks.

So we met our first true test of our trip when we first stopped for the night.  The tongue on the trailer which connects it to the bus decided to buckle.  The good news was that we were in camp and we were able to set up tents (albeit in the dark) and get a good nights rest.  In the morning we made the attempt to take the trailer into town but it just wasn’t meant to be and we were forced to stop at the side of the road and call CAA, upgrade our membership to RV coverage to include the trailer and having towed to a shop to have it fixed. 

As a result we had to take an extended tour of Sudbury.  Scouter Andy stayed with the trailer while the rest of the Scouts led by the equally capable Scouter Colin ventured to Dynamic Earth to see the Giant Nickel and take the grand tour which included a dinosaur exhibit and a guided tour through a mine!  Just as lunch concluded, we got word from Scouter Andy letting us know the trailer was repaired and we could get back on the road.  Big thanks to Scouter Gerry and Scouter Barbe who helped us every step of the way during our delay.

Day 2’s itinerary was to conclude with us staying in Thunder Bay for the night, but our delay forced us to stop short and we camped overnight beside Crescent Lake, which was beautiful…although infested with mosquitos.  Some campers braved the leaches and went for a swim that night, and some in the morning.  Luckily we escaped with only two older scouters having to receive the salt treatment.  Bleh.

Day 3 has begun with an amazing sunrise and we have nothing but blue skies ahead of us.  We passed two moose (off the side of the road and no threat to us) just after we broke camp.  The newly re-enforced trailer is working just fine and scouters are all still happy and smiling.  We stopped by the infamous Wawa goose for breakfast and photos, met Scouter Wally from Wawa and another traveling scouter (from London on his way to CJ) and even the tour bus driver in the parking lot was a leader from Misissauga! 

Now making our way towards Thunder Bay.    I believe the next stop is the Terry Fox Memorial.  As a very small child I passed Terry Fox while he was jogging both on the way and back from one of our family trips out west.  The itinerary also say The Sleeping Giant, but I’m not certain what we are forgoing in order to make up time from our delay.

That’s where we’re at!  Hopefully you are enjoying the twitter/instagram photos…and hopefully we’ll get a signal back and you can get more of them!  As for photos on this blog, I’m not sure we can upload them all so I promise I will make copies of them all and share them on our return!

Thanks for your patience, doing our best to keep you updated.

Scouter Keith